No matter who you are and what your profession, one fact rings true: Constant stress takes its toll on one's emotional and physical well-being. Whether you are employed in the newsroom, in the corporate boardroom or on the beat, individuals must wage war on this insidious beast or suffer the consequences.
Unfit and unhealthy officers experience enormous problems. The Enforcement & Wellness Association reports the suicide rate, divorce rate, and a host of other health-related issues, including alcohol abuse, is much higher for police officers than the national average.
Training and education are key to helping officers understand the importance of taking care of themselves. Unfortunately, while most police academies stress the importance of physical fitness and healthy living to new recruits, those lifestyle changes fall by the wayside for many officers once they begin walking the beat.
How can you as a police manager encourage healthy living among your officers?
- Set minimum physical fitness standards for officers; then provide incentives that encourage them to work out. Some departments provide officers time to exercise over scheduled breaks during the workday and financial incentives for doing so.
- Educate officers on the benefits of a healthy diet. Some departments solicit help from local dieticians, who visit the department regularly to discuss healthy diets, foods to avoid, etc.
- Train officers to recognize the signs of stress and depression, and provide them with tools to help them alleviate these issues. This might be through counseling options, peer groups or simply by teaching them healthy means of diffusing stress.
Encouraging healthy living among officers helps tame the beast and pays big dividends. Officers who are physically and mentally fit have lower rates of absenteeism and sick leave utilization. They also are better prepared to adapt to and perform under stressful situations.
Having healthy officers translates to a healthy department; one that works efficiently and effectively no matter what the emergency.